One of GBS’ ‘Plays Political’, The Apple Cart (1928) is a satirical comedy about several political philosophies which are expounded by the characters.  The plot follows the fictional English King Magnus as he spars with, and ultimately outwits, Prime Minister Proteus and his cabinet, who seek to strip the monarchy of its remaining political influence.  Magnus opposes the corporation ‘Breakages, Limited’, which controls politicians and impedes technical progress.

Shaw’s preface describes the play as:

‘… a comedy in which a King defeats an attempt by his popularly elected Prime Minister to deprive him of the right to influence public opinion through the press and the platform: in short, to reduce him to a cipher.  The King’s reply is that rather than be a cipher he will abandon his throne and take his obviously very rosy chance of becoming a popularly elected Prime Minister himself.

The play was completed in December 1928 and first performed at Warsaw (in Polish) the following June.  Its English première was at the first Malvern Drama Festival in August 1929.

Shaw based King Magnus largely on himself.  He modelled enigmatic and pivotal character Orinthia, the King’s mistress, on Mrs Patrick Campbell, the actor who had created the role of Eliza Doolittle in Shaw’s Pygmalion, and the ‘Powermistress-General’ is said by the biographers of Beatrice Webb to be modelled on Susan Lawrence, an old colleague of Shaw from the Fabian Society.